Ask Control Engineering
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control and embedded systems. Control Engineering answers questions from readers of Control Engineering's print and online magazines, newsletters and other publications. To comment on any blog posting, click on the post's highlighted question and scroll to the "Post a Comment" box at the bottom. Submit questions as comments to any existing post.
How much oil was lost in the gulf?
August 06, 2010
Dear Control Engineering: Please help me understand how much oil was spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
We’ll never know exactly how much oil was released from the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well over the past few months, but it is safe to say that it was the largest oil spill ever. One estimate that seems to be gaining acceptance is that roughly 5 million barrels (206 million gallons) were spewed into the gulf. How can you get a grip on that number?
If you were to dig a pit 100 ft. wide and 100 ft. deep, it would need to be about 2,750 feet long to contain that volume.
OK, maybe such an example isn’t very easy to visualize, but it suggests we’re dealing with a large volume. Let’s try to put it in a statistical context using some other oil-related numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Energy compiled from 2008 data:
U.S. crude oil production, 4.95 million barrels/day;
U.S. petroleum consumption, 19.5 million barrels/day;
Texas’ aggregate refining capacity, 4.7 million barrels/day; and
Total world petroleum production/consumption, 85.5 million barrels/day (The two numbers are almost identical.)
So, the spill was about one day’s worth of U.S. oil production, and one-quarter of a day’s consumption. Will anyone notice that?
--Peter Welander, firstname.lastname@example.org